St. Mary’s Episcopal Church sets Juneteenth service

Published 4:00 am Sunday, June 11, 2023

Warren County’s four Episcopal Churches are joining residents in observing Juneteenth with a joint 11 a.m. service on June 18 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 901 First North St.

Short for June 19, Juneteenth marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. According to the website, the troops’ arrival came a full two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth honors the end of slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday. Juneteenth 2023 is Monday, June 19.

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According to the website, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House two months earlier in Virginia but slavery remained relatively unaffected in Texas until Union Gen. Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

The Sunday service is the first time the Episcopal churches have held a Juneteenth service, said the Rev. Beth Palmer, the supply priest serving St. Mary’s. Palmer and church member Linda Tolliver planned the service.

“We’ve done this in response to several things; one of which was a resolution at our Annual Council in January of this year to recognize Juneteenth as a day of emancipation and freedom,” Palmer said.

“I know there’s a big picnic planned here in the city on Saturday the 17,” she said. “We just thought this would be a good way to bring our churches together, and of course, it makes sense for St. Mary’s to take the lead on this, given our history as an Episcopal church established for the African American community here in Vicksburg.”

Palmer said the Rev. Neddie Winters, the president of Mission Mississippi, will be the guest preacher for the service and clergy and lay people from all four Episcopal churches will be participating in the worship service.

“And then of course, in a good Southern tradition, we’re going to have lunch after,” she said, adding that outside of Rev. Winters serving as guest preacher, the service will be a typical Sunday service.

“It will be, you know, Holy Communion as we normally celebrate on a Sunday morning and the scripture readings have been selected because of their relevance to emancipation and freedom,” she said. “Holy Trinity canceled their regular service for June 18 and Christ Episcopal Church and St. Albans canceled their 11 o’clock service on June 18.

Palmer said the county’s four Episcopal Churches are trying to do more activities that involve all four Episcopal churches.

“St. Alban’s hosted a potluck and a bonfire to celebrate the church’s birthday and everybody was invited to that,” she said. They had something similar on Epiphany. “We’re just trying to build up the community and not stay separate with our different parishes.”


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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